Announcement: PhD Course Film Philosophy

(21-03-2018) UGent Doctoral School Specialist Course: Philosophical Approaches to Film Theory

Philosophical Approaches to Film Theory

UGent Doctoral School Specialist Course


Contact Hours: 18 (12 teaching + 6 doctoral presentations)

Language: English

Location: Korte Meer 11, 9000 Gent (Department of Communication Sciences Ghent University)



Course description:

Since its beginnings in the 1920s film theory has had a dynamic relationship with philosophy. Early classical film theory emerged as an attempt to solve what had traditionally been understood as a philosophical problem: what types of representations are admissible as works of art? More specifically, can a medium that is based on mechanical reproduction of reality be considered art? While cinema’s status as an art was eventually established (its initial photographic nature notwithstanding), the medium has continued to raise numerous philosophical questions. For instance, whereas classical film theorists were mostly interested in questions of ontology and the film’s relation to art, the theorists of the 1970s and 1980s drew heavily on continental thinkers such as Louis Althusser and Jacques Lacan to investigate film’s relationship to ideology broadly conceived. In more recent years, two other philosophical frameworks have been gaining increased currency – cognitivism and film-philosophy. The former builds on analytic philosophy and the latest developments in cognitive sciences to better understand film spectatorship which has hitherto mostly been explained in terms of unconscious psychoanalytic processes. The latter draws inspiration from philosophers such as Stanley Cavell and Gilles Deleuze to investigate whether not only philosophy can shed light on film, but also whether film offers new ways of philosophising. This course tackles some of the latest developments and the most pressing questions of present-day film theory: What are the methodological advantages of using analytic philosophy to theorise film when compared to continental approaches? What are the drawbacks? Can film elucidate philosophical problems? Can film philosophise in its own right or does philosophy only happen in natural language? Why are films so emotionally engaging? How is it possible to feel for characters which, being fictional, strictly speaking do not exist? What are the criteria for evaluating adaptations? Should a film adaptation be filmic and what does it mean for an adaptation to be filmic in the first place? How can the notion of a “film world” bring together questions of hermeneutics, affect, and formal analysis under a single heading? How would a project combining analytic and continental approaches to film theory look like? This specialist course aims to delve into these and other questions, thereby focusing on the latest developments in the field of film theory.



  1. Cognitivism and Analytic Philosophy in Film Theory
    Dr. Mario Slugan
    Friday April 20, 2018, 14:00 – 17:00, location: Aud. G

In this session Dr. Slugan discusses the distinction between analytic and continental approaches to film theory sand investigates whether the former can tackle arguably the dominant interest of film studies – ideology critique broadly conceived.


  1. Film-Philosophy
    Prof. Dr. David Sorfa
    Thursday May 3, 2018, 14:00 – 17:00, location: Meeting room John Vincke

Prof. Dr. Sorfa will discuss how film-philosophy differs from philosophy of film in this session. Crucially, he will make a case for the usefulness of applying Jacques Derrida’s work to film theory.


  1. Affect and Film KM11 1V
    Prof. Dr. Ed Tan
    Friday May 18, 2018, 14:00 – 17:00, location: KM11 1V

During this session, Prof. Dr. Tan will tackle the latest developments in the study of affective responses to film with a special focus on empirical research done in cognitive sciences.  


  1. Film Adaptation
    Prof. Dr. Thomas Leitch
    Thursday May 31, 2018, 10:00 – 13:00, location: KM11 1V

This session departs from Prof. Dr. Leitch’ seminal article “Twelve Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory” (2003) and focuses on the most recent developments in the field of adaptation studies since its publication.


  1. Film Seriality
    Prof. Dr. Constantine Verevis
    Thursday May 31, 2018, 14:00 – 17:00, location: KM11 1V

Building on session 4, this session delves deeper into the broad research field of adaptation studies by focusing on the currently vibrant field of “seriality studies”, including remakes, sequels, and trilogies.


  1. Film Worlds
    Prof. Dr. Daniel Yacavone
    Tuesday June 12, 2018, 14:00 – 17:00, location: KM11 1V

Prof. Dr. Yacavone concludes the doctoral school with an example of how analytic and continental philosophical approaches can be brought together in a concept of “film world” – a notion that integrates a film’s form, meaning, and affect.



Each 3-hour session will consist of both a lecture (1h 30 min) and a seminar-style discussion (1h 30 min), i.e. of 2 teaching hours and 1 hour for doctoral presentations. The expert speaker will deliver a lecture on the latest developments in his field (1h) to be followed by questions (30 min). This will be followed by a seminar (1h 30min) in which the expert speaker will lead course participants in the discussion of a classic paper from the field (30 min). The rest of the seminar will be devoted to student presentations on the topic and followed by feedback from the expert (1h). The paper will be distributed beforehand electronically so that the students can prepare their presentations. We estimate 2 to 3 student presentations per seminar. Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme): presence and active participation during at least 5 sessions. 



All the invited speakers listed here have agreed to participate.

Dr. Mario Slugan is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellow at the Department of Communication Studies, Ghent University, working on European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded project “Fiction, Imagination, and Early Cinema”. He is the author of two monographs including one on the place of analytic philosophy in film theory – Noël Carroll on Film: A Philosophy of Art and Popular Culture (I.B. Tauris, 2018, forthcoming). He works on the intersection of film theory, film history and analytic philosophy.

Prof. Dr. David Sorfa is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh and Programme Director of the MSc in Film Studies. He was previously Head of Film Studies at Liverpool John Moores University and is editor-in-chief of the journal Film-Philosophy. He has particular interests in film-philosophy, phenomenology, the work of Jacques Derrida and film adaptation. He has written on Michael Haneke, Jan Švankmajer and Czech cinema as well as a broad range of other film subjects.

Prof. Dr. Ed Tan is an Emeritus of the University of Amsterdam, an honorary professor of the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, and an affiliate professor of Film, Media and Communication at the department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen. He was involved in the foundation of the Society for the Cognitive Study of the Moving Image and is a member of its board. He is an editor of the journal Entertainment Computing and the author of a classic book on affect in film studies:  Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine (Erlbaum, 1996).

Prof. Dr. Thomas Leitch is a Professor of English at the University of Delaware. Most of his work—especially Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ (John Hopkins UP, 2007)—has focused on the process of textual adaptation. His most recent books are Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age (John Hopkins UP, 2014) and the Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies (Oxford UP, 2017). He serves on various editorial boards, including Literature/Film QuarterlyAdaptationJournal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, and the Adaptation and Visual Culture series published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Prof. Dr. Constantine Verevis is an Associate Professor of Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. He has published widely on adaptation: Film Remakes (Edinburgh UP, 2006), Film Trilogies: New Critical Approaches (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake-Remodel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Transnational Television Remakes (Routledge, 2016), and Transnational Film Remakes (Edinburgh UP, 2017). He is Associate Editor of several peer-reviewed journals, including: Film CriticismScreening the Past, Senses of Cinema, Metro and Screen Education.

Prof. Dr. Daniel Yacavone is Lecturer in Film Studies within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, where he has also been Director of the Film Studies Programme. He has written on film theory, film aesthetics, philosophy of film, and the intersections between film theory and the philosophy of art. His monograph Film Worlds: A Philosophical Aesthetics of Cinema (Columbia UP, 2015), shortlisted for the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Best Monograph award, is one of the rare attempts at combining analytic and continental approaches to film theory.


Organising Committee:

Prof. Dr. Daniël Biltereyst, Centre for Cinema and Media Studies (

Prof. Dr. Stijn Joye, Centre for Cinema and Media Studies (

Dr. Mario Slugan, Centre for Cinema and Media Studies (

Dr. Gertjan Willems, Centre for Cinema and Media Studies (

Prof. Dr. Tom Claes, Department of Philosophy and Moral Science (


Scientific Committee:

Next to the Centre for Cinema and Media Studies members of the Organising Committee, the course is supported by faculty from elsewhere at Ghent University and other Flemish universities:

Ghent University:


Antwerp University:

KU Leuven:

Hasselt University:



 This course is supported by the Doctoral School Council of Arts, Humanities and Law and by the Flemish Government.


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